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Published: December 14th 2012
I hope you are well and all the Christmas plays, services and celebrations have gone or are going well.
I am sorry I haven’t written for a while. We have been quite busy and our time in South America has quickly run out.
In the end we spent over 3 weeks in Peru. When we first arrived we were not sure if we would like the country as we staying in a town that was not very nice. However we quickly found some lovely places and realised our first impressions had been wrong.
We spent a few days in Trujillo, a city in the north of Peru that has a colonial centre and lots of history near by. We were lucky enough to arrive when a ‘festival for teenagers’ was on. The set up a stage in the main square and a BMX ramp! We spent a few hours watching salsa lessons and people singing surrounded by young Peruvians.
The next day we visited ‘Chan Chan’. This is a mud city from about 850 years ago! Although a lot of the walls have started to erode due to ‘El Nino’ flooding and general weather conditions, the site is still huge and very impressive. They have started to restore the palace of Chan Chan so that visitors can see what it used to be like. The walls are 10 feet tall in places and there are lots of carvings in the walls. The decoration relates to the sea (as Chan Chan was built on the coast) so there are fishing nets, fish and sea birds all lining the walls. There is also a tomb and pyramid! It was very interesting.
From there we headed to Huaraz, a non touristy town with is in the Corderilla Blanca Mountains. Whilst we were there we did a couple of day hikes. One was to a beautiful lake called Laguna 69; this lake has blue/ green water and is set at the bottom of a glacial mountain. This means that when you reach the lake you are very high up and can see snow on the mountain around! When we arrived at the lake it started to hailstone, so we didn’t stay there for very long!!! We also found a local market in Huaraz and spent a lot of time wondering round and eating!!!
After Huaraz we headed to Cuzco, another old town but much more touristy. We went on a guided tour to learn about the Inca’s (an old and very clever civilisation), we saw some of the old roads that they would have used, saw what is left of their sun temple and temple of gold, as well as learnt about the plants and herbs people now use to heal illnesses. We were also shown some horrible soups, made from not very nice parts of animals!
The most incredible thing we did in Cuzco though is start a visit to Machu Picchu. We decided we wanted to make our trip to Machu Picchu more exciting; se we walked, biked and zip lined our way there! On the way we stayed at a jungle casa (house). The family let us stay in their house and feed us yummy food. They had 4 daughters and the second youngest one, Maria, was very confident. We ended up spending hours playing swing ball together and laughing even though we didn’t speak each others language. The family also had lots of animals coming into their garden; a blue headed parrot, a pine martin and a large rat (!!) as well as their own sheep and dogs.
Whilst the journey to get to Machu Pícchu was exciting and fun, nothing could prepare me for how awe struck I would be at Machu Picchu! Machu Picchu was a city for the Inca’s (a group of people that lived about 500 years ago). It was going to be the main centre for communications as they had settlements from Quito in Ecuador to Santiago in Chile. It is believed they were going to use this city to help them send messages to all the other Inca’s. Sadly though the city was never finished and there are still stones laying on the floor that show it was still being built and they did not have not time to put these stones into the correct place. Archaeologists (people who study history) believe that the Inca’s decided they had to leave Machu Picchu as they were being invaded by the Spanish. They did not want the Spanish to know of their wealth or intelligence so they left Machu Picchu and destroyed most of the paths into it so that no one would know it was there!!! It worked because no one knew Machu Picchu existed until it was discovered in 1911.
I had seen lots of pictures of it but I hadn’t realised how big it was. There are lots of different sections of Machu Picchu. They have a large area of terracing for growing food – this is known as the ‘agriculture area’, they also have a section or housing classed as the ‘urban area’. This is where all the workers would have lived. They then had an area that was more spiritual, it contained a temple called the ‘temple of the 2 windows’ and it was these 2 windows that helped the Inca’s to understand the seasons and when it was time to plant food and harvest. Although it was not ever used as they had hoped it would be used, it was lived in by the people who were building it and so the agricultural terraces were used for them. There was also a house for the leader,2 other temples , a sun dial and a stone that points North, South, East and West, just as a compass would.
After Machu Picchu, we headed back to Cuzco for a few days. I did a chocolate making workshop at a local museum which was very interesting and I learnt about the Cocoa beans, how they grow and the long process they go thorough to make chocolate!
From Cuzco we headed to Lake Titkaka, another place relating to the Inca’s. Here we visited a floating island. The island is made from reeds and is tied to the ground. It means that the island can be moved if needed. The people who live on the island have to put down new reeds on the ground regularly so that it doesn’t disappear. The island was quite smelly. It also had no electricity and the houses were very small! They had a bed in and that was all.
We also visited another island called ‘Amantani’. Here we stayed with a family and were taken to a traditional dance. We were made to dress up in traditional clothes and dance with the families we stayed with. It was lovely to see how families on the remote islands live and eat their traditional food.
There is history behind Lake Titkaka relating to the Inca’s. The Inca’s believed that Lake Titicaca gave the sun! And they call it lake Titicaca as there is an island in the middle of it that they thought looked like a stone in the shape of a puma (Titki = puma Kaka = stone). The puma was a very important animal for the Inca’s. They believed in 3 special animals, the snake which shows intelligence, the puma which shows strength and the condor which is meant to show power and health.
By now we were really running out of time. We were hoping to spend some time in Bolivia to visit some salt flats but we only had time to spend one night in Bolivia. We stayed in La Paz, the highest capital in the world, and then the next day we travelled to Chile as we knew the buses were more reliable and we don’t have long until we have to fly out of Santiago. Although we were only in Bolivia for 1 night, we saw the poverty in this time. The roads had big holes, there were a lot more beggars and a lot of the houses were not finished. The price of food was also a lot cheaper.
We have had a whistle stop tour of Chile. We stopped off in Iquique for a night to have a day to get over travelling and spent some time wondering around and on the beach. We then caught a bus to San Pedro de Atacama; this is the driest dessert in the world and extremely hot!! Here we visited a salt flat which was very surreal. The ground was white and cracked; it was completely made up of salt. The salt is 1500 meters deep!!! Every now and again there is a little lagoon which is bright blue. We were allowed to swim in one of these lagoons and it is so full of salt that you float really easily!!! It is impossible not to and feels very strange.
Today we catch a 24 hour bus to Santiago and from there we fly to New Zealand!
I can’t believe our time in South America is already over, it has gone so quickly and we have not done half of what we wanted.
I was really hoping that we would be able to volunteer in a school but I had underestimated the time required to learn a language and how much a lack of language creates a barrier. Although we did a few days of Spanish lessons we would need to be fluent to teach in a school and make it worth while for other children. This takes time and we unfortunately didn’t have lots of time to learn the language and then spend weeks in a school. This is something that I know no and if I was to ever do this again I would take lessons before starting a trip.
Another thing that has really struck me whilst being away is the divide between rich and poor in South America. Many of the towns we have been to are ‘westernised’, they have McDonalds, KFC etc. I was expecting to see more dusty dirt tracks but most f the roads are paved. However, there are huge differences between the countries, for example Bolivia is the poorest country in South America yet it is next door to Chile, one of the more wealthy countries. Yet within the countries there are huge differences. People walk around in bare feet, going through rubbish and washing in the street as that is where they live. However next to them there are people, who own their own cars, wear smart clothes and shoes. There are many people selling things on the streets or shoe shine boys in the street trying to make money. There are completed houses, half completed houses and people living in cardboard shelters under bridges. It is believed that over 20%!o(MISSING)f the people live of 2 dollars a day, about 1.50p. However, what has really humbled me is that many of the ‘richer’ people are often seen giving change to the ‘poorer’ people.
It has been a real adventure for lots of different reasons and I hope that what we have experienced stays with us for a long time.
Have a great Christmas. I will write again from New Zealand.
P.S – I will post some photos another time! We need to go catch our bus!
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